While you may have heard of this new action shooting sport called "3 Gun," I know there are still lots of people out there wondering what it's all about and just exactly how it works. Hopefully, I'll be able to do a couple of things in the next few minutes:
- Help you get a better understanding of how 3 gun works
- Make some suggestions for the type of gear you'd need if you wanted to give it a try
- Give you some tips on how to get prepared for your first match
All this, HOPEFULLY without boring you to tears!!
Background and how it works
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC6o0hFolhc3 gun matches started being formally held as long ago as the 80's. If I'm not mistaken, the first "major" three gun match to be held on an annual basis was the Solder of Fortune 3 Gun in Las Vegas Nevada. This match was attended by the countries top shooters who came from all across the United States. The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) started having local, regional, and national level matches as the demand for these types of action shooting events grew. A few years before the last Solder of Fortune match, clubs across the country started putting on their own matches. These were referred to as "outlaw" matches because they didn't like the way the USPSA scoring system worked.Since then, there have been a lot of modifications to the rules and scoring programs, but today the standard scoring method is what's referred to as "time plus" scoring. Time plus scoring uses the overall time it took you to shoot a "stage," and then either adds or subtracts time off the overall based on any penalties or bonuses you may have incurred during the course of fire. The competitor with the fastest time for that stage is awarded 100 points. The rest of the competitors are awarded a percentage of points based on their time compared to the winners. There are usually 9-12 courses of fire in major matches. When all of the courses of fire have been shot, the competitor with the most points wins. Most local or "club" matches are scored this way. The only difference is, there will only be four our five stages and it will all be shot in one day; a national or "major" level match might be two and a half or three days long.
Types of gear needed to shoot a 3 gun match
3 Gun is sort of like golf; you don't need to buy a set of Taylormade clubs to decide if golf is a sport you want to try. A set of clubs from your local Wal-Mart will be plenty adequate to get you through your first game. If you want to upgrade you sure can, but there isn't any point in making a big financial commitment right up front.A lot of the guns, gear, and ammo I'll mention in the following couple of paragraphs are pretty spendy; however, I'll also give you some good alternatives for your first time out.
The pistol is the gun that most people interested in giving 3 gun a try already have, but just about any semi-auto pistol will work for your first time out. 9mm is what lots of regular shooters are using, but .38 super, .40, 10mm, .357 sig, and .45's will all work. The reason people are using 9mm is because of the higher capacity of the magazines and the low recoil which helps people shoot faster. The high capacity is good because some courses of fire will have upwards of 30 rounds of pistol required to finish the stage. The more bullets you have in your magazines, the fewer times you'll have to reload - which translates to faster times.Some of the other gear you'll need that relates to the pistol is a good holster and magazine pouches. One that will retain the gun and magazines during rigorous movement. Safariland has holsters specific for this type of shooting and they make holsters and mag pouches for just about every gun on the planet. I'm running the Safariland ELS system and it is ROCK SOLID.When you get into the deeper end of the pool, almost all the top shooters are using some variation of an STI 2011. This is similar to a 1911, but it takes double stack magazines which can hold up to 23 rounds of 9mm. My personal gun is a 2011 built by EMG Customs out of Phoenix AZ. I'm running magazines by Taran Tactical Innovations which enable me to get 23 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber.
This is another firearm that lots of people already have, and most of them are really close to being "3 gun ready." A semi-auto 12 gauge is what most people are using, but a pump shotgun in 12 gauge or 20 gauge will work just fine for your first time out. The biggest thing to consider with your shotgun is having additional capacity for shells. RCI/X Rail is a company that builds "bolt on" magazine tube extensions that can turn your 3 round shotgun into a race ready gun holding up to 12 rounds in the tube and one in the chamber. Again... fewer reloads mean faster times.Having a way to load the shotgun quickly is another item people spend large amounts of time trying to perfect. For your first time out, a pouch you can attach to your belt will be fine. Cargo pockets on your pants are also perfectly fine for your first time out. For the last couple of years, I've been running a Remington VersaMax with an RCI/X Rail 12 round extension and I'm loving it. This is one of the softest shooting guns I've ever had the pleasure of getting behind. It is also capable of running 3" shells so loading it is also very easy.
When you start talking about all the different things that can be bolted onto a modern sporting rifle (MSR), things can get pretty overwhelming. The long and short of it is, if you have a semi-auto platform and a couple of 30 round magazines, you'll be in great shape for your first time out. Most 3 gun matches have three main divisions: Open, Limited, and Scoped Tactical. Open is where a lot of the really fast shooters are (and they spend A LOT of money on their gear). For your first time out, there isn't any need to even look at the open division. Limited division means your rifle will either have iron sights or a non-magnified red dot optic. Scoped Tactical division allows the competitor to have one variable power or magnified optic on their rifle. This is where most first time shooters start. Scoped Tactical division also has the largest number of shooters overall, being nearly double of Open and about 75% more than limited. I’ve been running a Colt Competition CRP18 for almost six years now. I’ve got a Vortex Razor 1-6 for glass and it’s mounted up in a Warne R.A.M.P. mount.
Just about any ammunition you can find will work for a 3 gun match. For the shotgun, I recommend whatever "bulk pack" you can find in either 7-1/2 or 8 shot. 1200 feet per second is plenty and this usually ends up being a 2-3/4 dram load. Whatever shells run the best in your gun. Pistol ammo is just about the same. Anything you can find or reload in bulk is what you want. Remember, this isn't a bullseye competition, so don't get too worried about having ammo that will shoot 2" groups at 50 yards.Rifle ammo: This is the one place you need to pay attention. Most 3 gun matches will have at least one stage where you'll be shooting steel targets at longer ranges with your rifle (150y-400y). Almost all matches specifically prohibit steel core, tracer, or incendiary rounds. These rounds will punch holes in most steel targets and there is a high probability of fragments coming back and hitting the shooters, even at these extended distances. Basically, if your bullet sticks to a magnet, you'll be disqualified from the match. Be sure to check your ammo with a magnet before you go to the match.
So you're ready to give it a shot...(sorry for the pun, but I can't help myself)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rV6x-5El0_A&t=194sIf you're still reading this, I'm guessing you're still interested and are seriously considering finding a 3 gun match to shoot. This is great! But I have to warn you... I think it's sort of like crack... once you start, it'll be REALLY hard to stop!! Here are a couple of things to remember before you head out to the range:
- Take a minute to find the rules for the club you want to shoot at and try to make contact with the match director before you go out. Letting him or her know you're a new shooter before you get there is a good idea. Most likely they'll offer to meet you early to give you the rough layout, go over your gear with you, and clarify how the rules work. Match directors don't get paid to put on matches for the most part. They are there for the love of the sport and will be VERY excited to see you. Let them help you out.
- Make sure all of your guns are unloaded and in cases before you show up to the range. Even if the pistol you're going to use is the pistol you use for every day carry, empty it before you get there. People get nervous when people they don't know show up at the range and start pulling out loaded guns.
- If you're able to, look online and get a feel for what a 3 gun stage will look like, and then go out to the range and practice it. 3 Gun Nation has some great videos as well as "pro tips" online that will really help you out. www.3gunnation.com Getting a feel of what it's going to be like running your guns faster than you're used to will help you stay relaxed at the match. This will, in turn, help you be less nervous and have more fun!
- The two most important things to remember are to BE SAFE and HAVE FUN! 3 Gun is a great sport with a safety record that is just about as good as the "professional quilting association" leagues, but safety is paramount and won't be compromised.
People will be excited to see new shooters and they'll be anxious to help you out. Let them, and I guarantee you'll have a great time. For more information, check out the 3 Gun Nation website. Here you'll be able to find more info on guns, gear, top shooters, tips, and best of all, where to find a match!! Hope to see you at the range!!